LONDON - Asia-focused bank HSBC said on Tuesday that first-quarter net profits more than doubled to $6.35 billion (4.86 billion euros), aided by sliding bad debts, deep cost cutting and a solid performance in Britain and Hong Kong.

Earnings after taxation surged 146 percent in the three months to the end of March, from $2.58 billion in the same part of 2012, the lender said in a results statement.

HSBC added it has now slashed a total of $4.0 billion from its annual costs, axing about 46,000 jobs since 2011 as part of a massive restructuring.

Underlying pre-tax profits, after stripping out exceptional items, soared 34 percent to $7.6 billion in the first quarter. Revenues rose five percent to $17.6 billion.

“We have had a good start to the year, with growth in reported and underlying profit before tax,” said chief executive Stuart Gulliver.

“While continuing uncertainty in the global economy has created a relatively muted environment for revenue growth, we have increased revenue in key areas including residential mortgages and commercial banking in both our home markets of Hong Kong and the UK, and in our financing and equity capital markets business.

“Loan impairment charges were lower in every region, notably in North America,” he said, adding that the group was also lifted by its “continued focus on cost management”.